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Sunday, May 19, 2013
Five pressing issues facing Knicks

By Ian Begley

Smith
J.R. Smith, a free agent this offseason, said he wants to retire as a Knick. But will his wish be fulfilled?
The New York Knicks face an offseason full of questions after bowing out in the second round of the playoffs.

Here's a look at five pressing issues they will need to deal with:

J.R. Smith's free agency:
J.R. Smith said that he wants to retire as a Knick. To do so, he'll probably have to take a pay cut.

Smith has a $2.9 million player option for next season and is expected to opt out and test free agency. The Knicks likely will make it a priority to re-sign Smith, who won the NBA's Sixth Man Award but struggled in the postseason.

New York has Smith's Early Bird Rights and can offer him a four-year contract starting at approximately $5 million with standard raises.

But they may have competition for Smith's services. Another team with significant cap space can offer Smith more than $5 million. But how does Smith's poor postseason affect his market value? We'll find out soon enough.

Amare Stoudemire
Will Amar'e Stoudemire stand or sit at the start of games next season?
Define Amar'e's role: It's clear that Amar'e Stoudemire is best suited coming off the bench for the Knicks. But it's unclear if that's what he'll do in 2013-14. Don't forget, Knicks coach Mike Woodson planned to start Stoudemire at the beginning of the 2012-13 season before he went down with a knee injury.

So will Woodson want Stoudemire to return to the starting lineup next season? Or will he continue to bring him off the bench?

No matter what he chooses, Woodson would be wise to be delicate with Stoudemire, who is owed $45 million over the next two seasons.

Stoudemire said after the Knicks' season-ending loss on Saturday that he wanted to sit down with Woodson to discuss what he brings "to the table." Woodson would be wise to take the lead in that conversation and define exactly what he needs from Stoudemire in 2013-14.

Go big or small? The Knicks succeeded in the regular season with a small-ball lineup that relied heavily on 3-point shooting. But we saw the flaws of that model in the postseason, when just two Knicks regulars hit more than 33 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Woodson showed in Game 4 against the Pacers that he has no problem playing big. He went with a tradition front line in the Knicks' loss to Indy.

Despite the ugly result, there is a possibility Woodson will switch gears and try to go with a big lineup next season.

After all, injuries forced him to play with a smaller lineup in 2012-13. His intention coming into the season was to start Carmelo Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler on the same front line.

No matter what Woodson chooses for next season, it would behoove both himself and the Knicks if he did so sooner rather than later. This would force the front office to tailor its offseason plans around Woodson's chosen style.

The point guard situation: Jason Kidd is under contract for the next two seasons, but he has said that he may not come back for 2013-14. He said earlier this season that he will decide over the summer about his status for next season. Most Knicks fans who watched Kidd struggle in the playoffs would probably like to see him retire. But Kidd is unlikely to leave guaranteed money on the table. He is owed $6.1 million over the next two seasons. Maybe he agrees to a buyout?

Regardless of whether Kidd or Pablo Prigioni return next season, the Knicks need to upgrade at point guard. They will likely look to add a young guard through the draft or free agency (they will have the veteran's minimum or the mini-mid-level exception to offer free agents) or via a trade. Ideally, they'd find a guard who can excel on both ends of the floor. Outside of Iman Shumpert and Smith (when he's engaged), the Knicks don't have many two-way players.

Find a young power forward/center: The Knicks thought they had a great backup to Tyson Chandler when they traded for Marcus Camby last summer. But due to injuries, Camby was limited to just 24 games.

So the Knicks need a player on the interior to help Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin (if he re-signs) rebound and protect the rim.

With Carmelo Anthony starting at power forward and Stoudemire presumably behind him, the Knicks lack a solid defender at this position.

They may choose to re-sign Earl Barron to help fill the void. Or maybe they can find a young big via free-agency or the draft?

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